Thursday, February 28, 2008

Audit Shows What We All Know Already

At last night's School Board meeting (quite an emotion-filled evening, more on that on another post), the curriculum-management audit results were explained by a rep from Phi Delta Kappa International, which is a professional association of educators that did the audit. Here's the story
that appeared in the PI today. From the article:

"Though the report's primary purpose was to examine how the district designs, delivers and evaluates curriculum, it was much broader in scope than previous audits, touching on such areas as school facilities, budgeting and administration."

For my money the best thing said was that site-based management swung too far and left too many schools struggling. The consultant said that there was an evolution back to more centralized control.

Among the findings included in the article:

  • "Update School Board policies related to curriculum -- some of them haven't been reviewed since the 1980s.
  • Make sure the next comprehensive district plan focuses on a few measurable goals, which can be worked on over two or three years. The district's last attempt was packed with goals and "was determined to be unmanageable ... (and was) subsequently abandoned as a working document."
  • Continue trying to push more resources to schools with high populations of disadvantaged students.
  • Instead of relying primarily on the Washington Assessment of Student Learning results, create a districtwide assessment system to evaluate curriculum"

  • This is nothing new and it seems sad that we paid money for this (although the woman delivering the news was very professional and clear in her remarks). This district goes from plan to plan and seems to spend more time creating plans than implementing them.

    The consultant also should have set off warning bells to the Board about the assignment plan:

    "It also warned that the district's school-choice system doesn't provide students with equal access to high quality schools, programs and services and highly qualified, experienced teachers.

    The School Board, which has been considering changes to the student-assignment plan for months, has recognized the inequity and wants to even out school enrollments, but has been struggling to find a solution.

    It's something of a chicken-and-egg debate -- can officials limit school choice and encourage students to attend neighborhood schools when not all schools are on par academically?"

    If we change the plan to a feeder system, it is likely to provide even less equitable access to teachers and programs. Even with the SE Initiative, can the district say it has been in place long enough to say that students in the southend are getting a fair shake in high school compared with northend schools? I would submit that the answer is no. It's not even a matter of more parent involvement, people supporting their local schools, etc. It's about whether those high schools fundamental stack up? I'm sure Michael Rice, our teacher contributor from Rainier Beach, would proudly say they do. And maybe Michael can tell us whether he thinks parents in the southend choose to go north more because of academics or safety concerns.


    Anonymous said...

    The Curriculum Audit is 396 pages (gulp!). As you gear up to plow through this tome, here, from the table of contents, are

    Recommendation 1: Update, revise, design, and implement board policies that provide for
    adequate control of local curriculum management.

    Recommendation 2: Consolidate planning efforts to provide clear direction, coordination,
    prioritization, and sequencing of initiatives at all levels of the system to defi ned and
    prioritized district goals. Require consistent follow-through to promote accountability and

    Recommendation 3: Develop an organizational chart with corresponding written job position
    descriptions and appraisals that will provide sound management with focus on the design and
    delivery of curriculum.

    Recommendation 4: Develop, document, and implement a comprehensive curriculum
    management plan. Create single-source curriculum guides for every district course that meet
    audit criteria, support desired instructional practices, and provide institutional quality control.
    Facilitate the training of all administrators, teachers, and instructional staff in the effective use
    of these curriculum documents, and require the delivery of this curriculum with the intent of
    achieving high levels of learning by all students.

    Recommendation 5: Require and formalize comprehensive assessment procedures to provide
    data for decision making at all levels of the system. Review, revise, and implement the
    current Board policy for selection, implementation, and evaluation of programs utilizing
    data linked to student achievement that will be used as feedback for initiation, revision,
    continuation, or elimination of programs and practices.

    Recommendation 6: Develop and implement a plan to provide equal access for students
    to district and school programs, services, and opportunities; monitor practices to eliminate
    differences in achievement among student groups.

    Recommendation 7: Develop and implement a plan that aligns district and building level
    resources to curricular goals and strategic priorities. Include systematic cost-benefi ts analyses
    to assure that expenditures are producing desired results.

    Recommendation 8: Develop and implement a multi-year plan for merging schools utilizing
    existing data.

    Does anyone know when the Cliff Notes version of the report will be published?


    Anonymous said...

    Thank you for this recap. I really appreciate all the time you put into this blog!.

    Anonymous said...

    Here's the "news" page of district website, which has a link to the report (which is an Adobe PDF file)


    Michael Rice said...


    Melissa asked if I would post what I think about why parents of children in the South End choose to go to high school in the North End.

    As many of you know, Rainier Beach has made AYP each of the past two years. Because of this, we are no longer on the federal Needs Improvement list. We are joined by only Roosevelt and Nathan Hale. We also have the highest percentage of African American students meeting WASL standards in Mathematics in the Seattle School District. We also have very high African American pass rates in Reading and Writing.

    We thought that when we went to the local middle schools to share this information with parents, that not only will your child get an education at RB, but will have a much higher chance of meeting the WASL standards, our enrollment would go up. Boy, were we in for a surprise.

    As it turns out, our projected number to show for next year is less than this year. What we found out is that parents don't care about WASL pass rates. What they care about are PROGRAMS. And right now, we don't really have any. The SE Initiative is designed to get some programs in our school and once we get some details worked out, we will be a College Board ACCELerator school. I don't have all of the details yet, but it looks like it is a great program and I am very excited to be part of it and to get to teach it. I am a big fan of the College Board and all of their programs, so my initial reaction is going to be positive.

    I hope this answers the questions Melissa has. If there are more questions or comments, let me know.

    Anonymous said...

    ".parents don't care about WASL pass rates. What they care about are PROGRAMS."



    So quit teaching to it and advertising around it. Parents and (more importantly)students want an engaging academic experience!

    and ENOUGH of the studies and audits....get programs into South End schools...it's an appalling situation!

    Charlie Mas said...

    Of late, the District has not considered "getting programs into schools" as a District-level decision or a District-level task. It was strictly up to each school to plan, develop and implement programming - all without much in the way of District level support.

    The only exception to this site-based decisionmaking was the placement of special education programs. The District directed those. Their practice was to put them in the schools that had space for them. So under-subscribed schools would get an over-weighting of special education programs.

    It is unclear whether the District will take a stronger role in programming going forward. We can't know if the Southeast Initiative will represent the limit of their involvement or if it is merely their first step. The Special Education audit, like the curriculum audit, made reference to the disproportionate distribution of these programs.

    Will Madison and Meany be required to create Spectrum programs? Will some south-end elementaries be required to develop ALO programs? Will the Spectrum program for West Seattle-South be moved to a school that can support it?

    Will all high schools be required to offer a minimum set of AP classes?

    We shall see.

    dan dempsey said...

    Hey Charlie,

    As a full (1/3) of entering ninth graders are math clueless the question should be if you can not even test above level one in math as an eighth grader what math should you take as a ninth grader. AP classes in math will not be a concern of this group as their math skills are probably somewhere between kindergarten and sixth grade level.

    It will be interesting to watch the high school math adoption which will begin next month on March 12th assuming that it has not already been hand pre-picked and that public input is only the usual sham.

    I thought the audit said basically:
    "The SPS has little idea of what they are doing"

    Then less than one hour later the board voted 5-2 on option#2 confirming what the consultant said.

    Are we surprised that a district that socially promotes large numbers of kids while ignoring school board policy and having no grade level required skills was discovered by the $124,000 consultants to be doing just that. Seems like this man on the street has been pointing it out for over a year. Does this mean because the big buck consultant pointed it out the SPS will act?

    Or as you have pointed out there are no requirements for grade level promotion. ( if you can breathe you pass )

    Anonymous said...

    Dan please explain what you mean by no grade level requirements to pass. My child is in HS now. He has to have a certain amount of credits to graduate earning them by taking specific classes and passing them, in addition to doing a senior project, passing the WASL, and doing 60 hours of community service.

    Please explain your social promotion theory?? I don't get it, at least at the high school level.

    dan dempsey said...

    Dear Polyanna,

    How wonderful of you to inquire.

    I do not have a non-promotion theory for high school. Grade level promotion is a k-8 topic.

    My theory for high school is it is a difficult task when many have been socially promoted rather than educated. Check the data and the lack of accountability for the SPS on the OSPI school report card available at www.k12.wa.us

    Read the following from the SPS policies. I am talking k-8 promotions, with particular emphasis on grades 3 through 8.

    D43.00 D44.00 and D45.00

    After reading these try calling Ms Rosalind Wise your k-12 math program manager or CAO Ms Carla Santorno and cite D.44 and ask her for the required necessary skills in grade 3 math.

    There are no effective interventions employed as no one has a clue what should be taught or intervened on.

    Then read this: From the 60 folks who have watched the results. check the SoundOff comments.

    Our High School math problem exists because a knowledge of arithmetic especially the number sense of fractions, decimals, and percents is a prerequisite. I would estimate that 50% of 9th graders do not have this prerequisite.

    Take a huge listen to this if you have a hour for the full scoop - but hey the first 5 minutes will let you know that the National Math Panel recommendations coming out in the next two weeks will not be anything like the UW - OSPI - SPS math fairy-tale we have listened to for the last decade of disaster.

    The Sound comes up to an acceptable level when Bill Schmidt starts talking:

    Any report that suggests we are doing better in the last decade is not correct.

    Way too many topics at each grade level is a major problem - Check Everyday math.
    In grade 1 50 learning goals and 71 goals in grade three. Focus should be on rigor and fewer topics so students can do serious mathematics at the middle school level.

    Check Ms Santorno's recent adoptions since her arrival. Connected Math and Everyday Math leaves many of our children unprepared to do any real math in high school. I wonder where she and Ms Wise will be on March 12th with their high school adoption suggestions?

    We have a tremendous crisis occurring the good jobs are going off shore because we do not teach math in school - we teach math appreciation not math.

    Then phone Maria Goodloe-Johnson PhD. and ask her who is being held responsible for ignoring everything that was in process since the NCTM focal points were published in September of 2006. Ask her why the SPS dumped millions into Everyday Math and accompanying training as I submitted materials to the SPS admin and the school board from Jan 17, 2007 right through their 6-0 vote to trust their hired experts on May 30th 2007.

    I thought to be an expert you had to have evidence of past success. Clearly not in the SPS in math.
    Check Seattle's expanding math achievement gap during the last decade of Ms. Wise's employment in the SPS.

    Check the data from Ms Santorno's Denver Public Schools in math where Everyday Math and Connected math are in place.

    Where is the data driven decision making ? Where is every person being held accountable?

    Obviously the same place that the six period day mandate from MG-J for West Seattle comes from - there is no data in support of this mandate as the data all points the other way.

    It appears that in Seattle:
    Bullying is mistaken for Leadership.

    How about great data from a large urban middle/high school of 1500+? This idea is so absurd you can probably not find one north of Los Angeles county on the West Coast. Approximately 1,000,000 students go to school in LA County and they have two of these pathetic Dinosaurs left in Bellflower CA.
    Hey the SPS can be above average for almost every school district on the West Coast. For we will have 1 per 45,000 students. Well that is until more families and students leave the SPS - with leadership like this many who have an option to leave will not stay.

    Great School board a vote of 5-2 in support for decision making based on lies and deception - congrats to Irene Stewart, where ever you are, and Don Gillmore who spent two million planning while not notifying the public that he had no intention of fulfilling either the description in the voters guide or on the ballot of BEX III in regard to Denny Middle School.

    To improve a system requires the intelligent application of relevant data. DO NOT EXPECT any improvements in Seattle anytime soon in regard to anything. They neglect even the relevant data when it is sent to them. The intelligence to apply it can not be used when the data is not even considered.

    Effective leadership in the SPS is currently an oxymoron.

    So much for political slogans on signs.

    Let us not neglect Ms Santorno's most recent attempt to mislead.
    She submitted three documents to support the MEGA urban Middle/High school.

    1... Certain students have difficult with the transition from one school to another this plan eliminates the middle school / high school transition. -- The only problem is that the study involved traqnsitions from elementary school to middle school it could only be used in support of a k-8 school or a k-12 school not this dinosaur.

    2.. A document in support of Middle /High schools as effective. This referred to rural schools not urban schools.

    It is abundantly clear that the SPS does data mining in support of pre-made flawed decisions. The idea of research is to do the research first and base decisions upon your findings.

    How pathetic is this MEGA school when given the huge volumes of school research published (probably 90%+ of which is useless and misleading). The best that Ms Santorno can find is 3 pieces two of which do not apply.

    OH yes data driven decision making and everyone accountable what a grim fairytale.

    Hey dude what happened to democracy? Apparently it has been replaced by centralized autocratic decision making based only on the whims of the anointed.

    Good Luck with the BEX IV levy with this on the racing form. Most folks will not bet on a continuing loser - Oh I forgot the extortion factor of holding the kids hostage again. Maybe BEX IV is a 50-50 shot, which is a lot better chance than the re-election of most of these board members.

    Anonymous said...

    I only scan this site as my child is very young but I always wonder why parents scoff at the notion of teaching to the test.
    If the "test" is a reflection of all that should have been taught by a certain period, say 4th grade, aren't teachers simply aligning their curriculum with state standards and isn't the test a reflection of state standards? Sorry if I'm unclear - just wondering why we don't want a teacher who is teaching to the standards and thus making it easier for our kids to pass standardized tests. Clearly, by the time my daughter sees the SAT, I don't want the questions to be a total surprise. Someone hopefully will have been teaching her that stuff.

    Anonymous said...

    Dan, not to throw gasoline on your fire, but check out this, from this morning's Seattle PI:

    Math skills worry faculty [UW]


    Charlie Mas said...

    I don't really understand the need or the purpose for all of these audits. All they have done is tell the District what they already know - or should already know - and certainly what we already know.

    Does it really take Phi Delta Kappa to tell the District that they don't have control or even knowledge of what is being taught in the classrooms? They already know that. Does it take Phi Delta Kappa to recommend that they get control?

    And when Phi Delta Kappa recommends that the District require consistent follow through and promote accountability, do they think that the District hadn't thought of that on their own? Is that supposed to be a novel idea to the District leadership? More likely, the District leadership has already thought that follow through and accountability are desirable goals but there is some obstacle preventing them from achieving it. A more helpful recommendation would be some hint as to identifying an removing that obstacle.

    Are we to believe that the District doesn't have an organizational chart? Are we to believe that the District doesn't have written job descriptions?

    Phi Delta Kappa's recommendations are generally unhelpful. They suggest that the District do a lot of work that everyone already knows that the District should do, but the recommendations don't identify the barriers that have prevented the district from doing this work to date and certainly don't offer any suggestions about how to overcome those barriers. What good does it do for them to write: "Develop and implement a plan to provide equal access for students to district and school programs, services, and opportunities". How does that help the District enroll more Latino students in Spectrum and APP? Is the disproportionate enrollment in Spectrum a result of unequal access or is it a result of forces outside the District's control?

    To do the work that Phi Delta Kappa recommends, the District will have to hire on a whole platoon of curriculum people. Imagine the task of creating a single source curriculum guide for every district course, to develop all of those assessments. As I read these recommendations, it's clear that they cannot be implemented with the current staffing levels.

    Melissa Westbrook said...

    Anonymous 11:16, good question and maybe I can start a post about it.

    I think when people say they don't want teaching to the test, they mean they want teachers to take into account the types of learning for students in their classrooms, what challenges those students bring and also to not have cookie-cutter teaching from a script (as is the case in other districts). They are not saying that WASL information isn't important because it is but don't leave out using the arts or integrated curriculums to reach that point.

    dan dempsey said...


    If the SPS has enough audits done by many different experts. They will have several thousand pages of material that they can look through to support any decision on any topic for the next decade. It will make Ms Santorno's future mining expeditions in support of bizarre pre-made decisions much easier. Hopefully she can avoid future embarrassments like the 2 out of three data failure of this last week.
    Who would have thought these city folks would detect a difference between urban and rural? - If Hillary does not win perhaps slick Willy can come to Seattle and give Carla a hand with these data mining operations.

    Anonymous said...

    On the subject of middle-school math.... When my son was in 6th grade at Madison Middle School (at the temporary Boren site where we will soon be again) my husband and I were struggling to help him in math. Not because we had problems or math anxiety, but because it had been many years since either of us had performed more than basic "accounting" style math.

    My son (who for years has tested several years over grade level) would come to me with these amazingly vague "story problems" (that's what they called them in the 70s!) and I would dig through his textbook looking for the formula I knew I needed to solve the equation. I would ask him, "Where are the formulas to solve these?" and I would always question him when he would tell me he didn't know what I was talking about.

    Talking to other parents at baseball games, soccer games, concerts etc, I found that we ALL had this same problem and felt like idiots because of it.

    Further into the school year, there was special meeting at the school one evening SPECIFICALLY TO TEACH ALL OF US PARENTS HOW TO DEAL WITH THIS MATH!!!! The library was PACKED. There were tons of people there and we all were struggling. Parents kept asking "Where are the formulas?" "How can I help my child?" and "Has college math changed too?". A book was recommended to us that we could buy to help us. It is called "Math on Call". You can bet your bottom dollar I bought that book immediately.

    Fast forward to now. My son is a freshman at Chief Sealth. He is in an honors math. His textbook was published in 1992 and is filled with text, NO colorful illustrations, and page after page of beautiful problems to solve and equations! I can once again help he if he needs it (but now he rarely does).

    New isn't always better...

    Anonymous said...

    So are our kids prepared for college math by the time they graduate HS? It sounds like Terc (elementary), and CMP (middle school) is followed up by some preyy traditional math in HS (correct me if I'm wrong, my kids are still in MS). It sounds like it all came together for the son of the poster above. Is there hope for our students after all?? Do they finally get the equations in HS??

    Anonymous said...

    A second question, and I asked it in a post on another thread but nobody responded:

    If kids take higher level math classes Int I II II, pre calc, AP calc and/of AP statistics (college level work), then are they prepared for college math?

    When we say our kids are grossly unprepared are we talking about kids who only took the required 2 years of basic math in HS? What about the kids that took higher level math?? Are all of SPS graduates unprepared to do college level math or just some?

    Anonymous said...

    "When we say our kids are grossly unprepared are we talking about kids who only took the required 2 years of basic math in HS? What about the kids that took higher level math?? Are all of SPS graduates unprepared to do college level math or just some?"

    Great question...the answer is "it depends" if your student gets CMP2 then CorePlus in HS, mostly likely they will not be prepared. IF they get CMP2 with supplementation, then the McDougel Littel program in HS, they will be better prepared. If they take CMP2, with/without supplementation, then go thru the IB math at Ingrham, they will be very prepared.

    If a parent supplements like many do, the students are prepared...

    Just depends on the cirriculum they get, the supplementation and teacher.

    Anonymous said...

    Does anyone have any direct experience with the Ingraham IB program. It sounds fabulous, but I would like to talk to someone who has a student that has been or is going through the program. Besides academics, what is the social setting in the school. Do the students in the regular program integrate well with the IB students, or is there seperation, and a "good student vs bad student" mentality